Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer -- Creating a Cover

Entertainment



About a year ago, I embarked on a project that I was excited to be a part of.  I was approached to create a cover (and a title design) for a new book dedicated to honoring and expanding upon the legacy of the late author, Philip Jose' Farmer in what came to be titled:  THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSE' FARMER:  PROTEAN DIMENSIONS.  I was re-reading Chris Roberson's fantastic contribution, The Final Flight of Greatheart Silver, and started reflecting back on this piece. I thought it might be interesting to show some of the steps it took to get to the final project and illustrate it with as many of the different stages as I still had files on and undeleted emails.  So, read on to gain a little insight into how I work.

I was initially contacted by my friend, FARMERPHILE editor, Michael Croteau about whether I might be interested, which I was.  This opened up a series of communications with a group of writers and editors, and myself, in trying to generate a creative spark within me.  At the time, the intention was to continue the recently concluded FARMERPHILE magazine with a series of book-sized FARMERPHILE ANNUALS.  I was working on another project at that moment and wasn't able to give serious consideration to coming up with a cover concept for this FARMERPHILE ANNUAL.  I wasn't inspired....but I wanted to be.  As the conversation between the team evolved, the concept behind the FARMERPHILE ANNUAL also evolved and one night I got dinged on my cellphone with an email.  That email from Win Eckert proposed something wild.  He proposed letting the FARMERPHILE name rest and naming it THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSE' FARMER as a way of marking it as something new.   The plan changed to a series of yearly annual anthologies called THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSE' FARMER and demark them with subtitles.  The first volume being THE BITE OF THE ASP (though this was later changed to PROTEAN DIMENSIONS).  And the rest is now history.

And I had a concept -- a space scene depicting the various planets from Phil's many different stories.  Which is a great idea, however, what I realized as the artist was that pulling back far enough from the planets to incorporate more than just a couple of them meant that a lot of the detail that you would expect from, say, the Riverworld or The World of Tiers, are going to be lost.  So, I was going to take steps to try to give the planets textures that distinguished them from each other and look alien, but I knew that identifying them was going to be something probably only I would be able to do.  But I thought it could make for a cool design, basically an entire solar system of different planets than our own.  The only direction I had received at this point was to avoid putting faces on the cover, to distinguish this book from fanzines and pulps.

Can you tell this used to be Venus?
First thing I did was grab a public domain space photo of Orion to manipulate for the background.  Then I went into Wikipedia and grabbed a public domain hi-res grouping of planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

Then I isolated Venus, Mars, and Earth respectively...and manipulated and tweaked them within Photoshop.

Earth forms root for Riverworld.
 
These would form the basis for my solar system.  I pulled these elements into Photoshop and experimented with a color scheme.  I decided that I wanted to go really bold with it and give this otherworldly design a fiery look to it.  I thought that it would distinguish the look of the book to be bold and hot with the color scheme.   I also took this old photo of Phil and "ghosted" it into the image for the back cover of this wrap-around cover design.  The way I feel about it is that Phil is basically the "God" of the worlds he created and I wanted to give that sense of him looking out over his creation from on high.  Lots of manipulations, texturing, brushstrokers and effects later...below is the initial design created in layers on Photoshop.




 I provided a mock-up with an idea for the title design where I scanned in Phil's actual signature and tried to utilize that in the title itself.  In my mind, I was trying to emphasize the "Worlds" aspect in the title, and that's why it is so prominent.  I chose "Maximo" as our title font, and that stayed through to the end.

I received back some good feedback.  Mostly positive.  However, the planet that I created for the most prominent foreground position was liked the least.  My thinking on this was that we were going to be listing the contributing authors on the cover, so I wanted something that would not detract from that.  However, the visceral reaction was not good.  So, I needed to keep that in mind.  I was also encouraged to maybe try making one of the planets more obviously, say, Riverworld and maybe make one into the Lavalite world which "could have a mass ripping away from one side and other mass crashing into the other side (about the size of the moon next to that red planet, under Farmer)."  I also received back a mockup from Chris Carey, following the old basic FARMERPHILE cover design, showing the cover text at that point so I could have a visual to go by on what kind of space is needed.

I liked the visual of the Lavalite world cracking apart.  That gave me some solid direction creatively.  I received some direction on the title design that included dropping the signature font, reducing "Worlds", adding "The", making Phil's name more prominent, and adding "Protean Dimensions."  I also received some growing interest now in moving Phil's face to the front...but nothing firm on that yet.  After much Photoshop tinkering, this was the second round on the cover design, incorporating as much as I could in terms of suggestions.  Basically, my color-enhanced Earth became, in my mind, the Riverworld...and Mars became my base planet for the Lavalite world as I went in and played with the color and textures, then blew it apart by having our color-enhanced moon smashing into it.  It also occurred to me that a hi-res photo of Mars could be used as a good base image for creating Darkseid's "Apokolips" in Photoshop....but that's for another day.



Based on feedback, I rearranged the "activity" onto the back cover mainly.  I enlarged and brightened up "Protean Dimensions", added James Gunn to the contributors and enlarged the font size on that as well to make it easier to read.  At this point, I was starting to feel like the book was going to wind up with one of those covers that was going to basically be a starfield with text.  That was disappointing to me.  I didn't like how the planets seemed now to be so randomly thrown together onto the back cover and Phil's face was starting to feel superfluous to the design.  I needed some feedback at this point, and I got it.


The next round of feedback, I was told that "the lettering looks great, but we're still not crazy about the cover art. Especially since there is now a big "dead space" right below "and more" which makes you wonder why we didn't just keep listing names."  I was glad to hear the news about the lettering, and I agreed about the art at this point.  So what did they want me to do now that we were coming dangerously close to deadline?  I was asked to take Phil's face and move it to the front and shift the "Stories and essays" text  down towards the yellow text and, if possible, "to take the layer with the stars and shift the colors more towards the blue spectrum?"  For, as I was told,  "the more we keep looking at this, the more tiring the red becomes."  Ouch.  Haha.  Part of the game of commercial art.  I, personally love the red spectrum...but I'm also a bit of a "Fire" personality so that makes sense.  But I was confident I could make the blue spectrum shift work.  As I was working on these changes, I received an email from Mike that finally gelled the whole idea for me.  In it, he asked me "How hard would it be to arrange the planets to give the impression they are spiraling out of Phil's mind?"

Eureka!

That's what I needed right there.  I immediately knew what to do.  And this is what I came up with:



This one worked on all levels for me and, I hope, for everyone else.  We were running right up on deadline by this point, so I laid it out and worked it up to the publisher's specs and isolated the graphic elements in gray tones so that Mike could use them within the book to spice up the page designs and we had a book cover. THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSE FARMER: PROTEAN DIMENSIONS featured a cover image with the sparkling mischievous eye of Phil looking straight into the reader while worlds of creativity are bursting from his mind like Athena bursting out of Zeus's head.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reviews of SUPERMAN/BATMAN #79 & #80 and JLA #53

Entertainment




SUPERMAN/BATMAN #79 & #80

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Jesus Merino
Publisher: DC Comics

"It's all down to quantum fluctuations and the uncertainty principle. All around us, all the time, virtual particles are spontaneously generated out of the vacuum--always in particle and anti-particle pairs that destroy each other immediately." -- Superman

Wow. Read that quote again. Usually, Grant Morrison is the only writer who seems to remember that Superman is super-smart as well as super-strong. But that only makes sense here since this 2-part story written by Chris Roberson is a bit of a doe-eyed love song to Grant Morrison. And, if this story is any indication of how Roberson plans to approach the character in his new run on the main SUPERMAN title, then I say the faster he can pull himself away from the misguided "Superman Walking" storyline and go his own way the better.

I can't rave enough about this 2-parter. If you haven't picked it up yet, go buy both issues and sit back and enjoy.

What's to love, you ask? First of all, it really is a story that doesn't require knowing anything but the basics of who Superman and Batman are. Second, there are teases and glimpses of the vast, wonderful mythology that Grant Morrison introduced to Superman within the DC ONE MILLION event back in 1999 and expanded upon with the classic ALL-STAR SUPERMAN series.

What Roberson does with these two issues is utilize Morrison's Superman work almost like his own personal Philosopher's Stone and with that magical stone he can now transform all the dead elements weighing down Superman into reenergized wonder and fun.

The plot tool he uses to accomplish this feat is that time-traveling tool known as "Epoch, The Lord of Time." He's a throwback villain from the waning days of the Silver Age villains. Ridiculous costume, uninspired characterization, and yet...Roberson and his magic stone breathe new life into him. Our time-traveling villain is captured by the Justice Legion A's Batman and Superman of the 853rd century and promptly traps them inside some sort of temporal loop while he jumps back to the past to defeat the silver age Superman and Batman (with Robin, the Teen Wonder). He does so, because in his time-travelling he has seen a reference to The Lord of Time ruling the world at some point in the early part of the 2000s.

I loved the interaction between Epoch and the Superman/Batman team at this point of their careers. This is Batman in full blue, gray, and yellow oval super-hero-ness and Robin is wearing his elf shoes and riding a cool red motorcycle. Robin is especially enjoyable in this comic book where he is in full "Burt Ward" mode smacking his fist in his hand as exclamation. Watching Superman and Batman intellectually working out a solution to escape an inescapable trap was one of those moments that made me wonder why we can't get comics like this anymore. There were moments of joy when the story took me into the future Batcave, Fortress of Solitude, and JLA Trophy Room. I got a thrill at the glimpses of those in the Phantom Zone and the Unknown Superman, the Superman of the 5th Dimension, and the Second Superman foretold in ALL-STAR SUPERMAN.

This is super-hero comics at their best. Smart, funny, imaginative, and most of all...fun. Jesus Merino is a fantastic artist and he brings his A-game to this story. Every character looks great. His layouts and storytelling never detract and only further my enjoyment of the story. Roberson and Merino set a high bar in this story on how to write within DCU continuity without being crushed by it and embrace all the wonder of what a world with a Superman...and Batman...really could be.

I can't wait to see what Roberson does with his run on SUPERMAN. If this story is an indication, then I have the highest of expectations. This is a writer who understands what makes Superman great and how to challenge him.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Review of THE GREEN HORNET

Entertainment
THE GREEN HORNET
Director:  Michael Gondry
Writers:  Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Stars:  Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, & Christoph Waltz
Opens:  January 14, 2011


Official Synopsis:  Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son of LA's most prominent and respected media magnate and perfectly happy to maintain a directionless existence on the party scene until his father (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies, leaving Britt his vast media empire. Striking an unlikely friendship with one of his father's more industrious and inventive employees, Kato (Jay Chou), they see their chance to do something meaningful for the first time in their lives: fight crime.


To get close to the criminals they come up with the perfect cover: they'll pose as criminals themselves.


Protecting the law by breaking it, Britt becomes the vigilante the Green Hornet as he and Kato hit the streets. Using all his ingenuity and skill, Kato builds the ultimately in advanced retro weaponry, The Black Beauty, an indestructible car equal parts firepower and horsepower. Rolling in a mobile fortress on wheels and striking the bad guys with Kato's clever gadgets, the Green Hornet and Kato quickly start making a name for themselves, and with the help of Britt's new Secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), they begin hunting down the man who controls LA's gritty underworld: Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). But Chudnofsky has plans of his own: to swat down The Green Hornet once and for all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Entertainment
2010: THE YEAR OF FREE STUFF

You know how a kleptomaniac will steal stuff regardless of whether he can afford it? It's the thrill of slipping that shiny bauble in his pants and wondering whether he will get caught. Or remember the lengths that J.R. Ewing would go to pursue another woman and then the minute he "got" her, the attraction was gone? Again, it was the thrill of the chase that drove his indiscretions. Well, in my own way, I made a resolution back at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 to feed my thrill-need. I basically made it my "New Year's Resolution" for 2010. My method, however, involved a different kind of thrill. My thrill-seeking was based on seeing how many movies and/or events I could get myself into without having to pay for tickets!

I had already made it into a few of these things before, like the LAND OF THE LOST advanced screener (with Marty Krofft in attendance) and the old defunct Wizard World convention in Dallas. So, I was already familiar with some of the tactics for getting free stuff. But this year I was going to be more vigilent and pro-active in keeping my eyes and ears open to opportunities. First thing I did was sign up for various advance movie screening services such as (but not limited to) GoFoBo (Go For Box-Office), Gordon and the Whale, Soulciti, and College Movie Review. I've kinda learned the system for getting these passes now. I can almost always score a pass for a movie, if it is offered (not every movie gets a screener in Austin). In fact, I scored a number of passes that I wound up having to skip for various personal reasons (e.g., LITTLE FOCKERS, HOW DO YOU KNOW, 127 HOURS, CONVICTION, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY).


The thing to remember about these various advance screening passes is that most of them don't "guarantee" admission. It's sort of like showing up for a flight with a boarding pass in hand and being told that they "overbooked" the flight and you have to take "standby" status on another flight, the screening organizers always give out more passes than the theater has seats in an attempt to have a full audience. As a result, it is always a gamble on whether I will get there early enough to make the cut and get in. As a general rule, if I can get there at least 2 hours before the film starts, I've never missed getting in. But as soon as I whittle it down to the 90-minute or 1 hour before, it becomes a crapshoot that kinda depends on the perceived popularity of the movie. If it's a 1/2 hour before the movie, then it's a guaranteed miss. What I will NOT do is one of those "camp-out" kind of things, which I've seen people do. That's absurd and moronic. We're talking about saving $9. Not worth giving up a day of my life for that. But I'll happily give up a couple of hours just for the thrill of expectation and, in the end, I may get a free movie out of it. Most of these events were me +1 guest. Some of them were just lonesome me by myself, but usually I can scrounge up at least one unlucky soul *cough* who gets stuck sitting next to me.


I was also able to parlay a little email luck into a concert and a TRUE BLOOD event (more details below). My role as a "respected" *snortle* freelance comic book/graphic novel reviewer into review copies of such amazing books as the SOUL STEALER and GREEN WOMAN graphic novels and DC Comics' ABSOLUTE PLANETARY 2-Volume set.

Presented chronologically are my 2010 freebies in pursuit of fulfilling my 2010 Resolution to do as much "free stuff" as I could get.

January 5
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES
I had no idea what this movie was about and was surprised how interesting it actually was. It plays like a TV movie-of-the-week, but the caliber of the acting with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser elevated it. Plus, the conflict between science for the public good and corporate funding has never been directly and specifically addressed like it was in this true story.







January 7
BRAD PAISLEY w/MIRANDA LAMBERT
AT&T Center, San Antonio
This one was a radio contest for a pair of tickets on KVET. Total chance in an email drawing. Had to take a long lunch one day to drive all the way from Salado down on Congress Ave. in Austin to the KVET studios to pick up the tickets. Great concert and that Miranda Lambert is a li'l spitfire.

February 28
THE WOLFMAN
This movie premiere was hosted by Aint-It-Cool with producer Scott Stuber on hand for a Q/A afterward. This was an email lottery contest and I don't "think" I got any special favoritism for being "Prof. Challenger" on the comic book reviews side of AICN. But if I did? BOOO-yaaaa! Besides the complimentary admission, we were each given a cap, a t-shirt, and a mini-sheet movie poster plus we were each served 2 lamb skewers in a raspberry sauce with a hand-made moon pie for dessert and your choice of themed beers. I chose 1 Coors Light (a Silver Bullet) and something called "Full Moon Pale Ale" in a bottle. The "Full Moon Pale Ale" was realllllyyyy bitter, but hey, it was free.
Oh, and probably the only real thing of interest in the Q/A with producer Scott Stuber was that the film was almost directed by Guillermo del Toro but when HELLBOY 2 was greenlit he had to step aside. But, that following del Toro's work on THE HOBBIT, he was planning to direct Universal's new FRANKENSTEIN film as a sister-film to this one. That was less than a year ago. Since then, del Toro has dropped out of THE HOBBIT and Peter Jackson is back "in" and I haven't heard anything more about this supposed FRANKENSTEIN film since THE WOLFMAN kinda bombed at the theater (even though the movie was actually a pretty good update).

March 8
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
This one was different. This one I got into through the HOT TUB TIME MACHINE website which had set up a viral marketing tactic of offering a limited number of "HOT TUB TIME MACHINE" screening parties around the country. I got us in to one of the parties at the Alamo Drafthouse. Lots of fun. Filthy, stupid movie. But I have to admit I laughed a lot. Notice the bad cellphone snap of me and my long-suffering wife in the background joining the stars in the hot tub.

March 31
CLASH OF THE TITANS
This one was in 3D. For free, I thought it was pretty decent although the 3D was awful. I came out and encouraged people not to spring for the 3D if they decided to check it out.











April 16-18
C2E2
I had never made a trek out-of-state before to attend a comic convention. The "Mecca" of the convention circuit is pretty well-known to be the massive San Diego Comicon. The odds, however, of me ever getting over there to the ever-expanding Conventionsaurus in San Diego make it highly unlikely that I will ever make it. But the same group that organizes the New York Comicon decided to start, basically a competitor to San Diego but set in Chicago rather than on a coastal metropolis and 2010 was set to be the inaugural year. The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. This was an opportunity to be in on the ground-floor of a new major comic convention and receiving a free pass to the 3-day event as a representative of the press for Aint-It-Cool and I took it. That turned out to be the highlight of 2010.

April 20
THE BACK-UP PLAN
This was the worst movie I saw last year. I also realized I must be completely out-of-step with the masses, because as I was groaning at yet another stupid gag involving pregnant females and their bodily fluids, the audience was howling. When I walked out and the representative asked what I thought about the movie, I said "It was awful" and immediately this lumbering trailer-park reject exiting behind me sniffed in derision as if I had just said her grandmother wears combat boots. She blurts out "I LOOOVED it! It was GREAT!" Yeah, whatever, Roseanne.

May 4
IRON MAN 2
This screening was won on the Facebook page for KEYE-TV. Right as I was getting in the car to drive home from work I checked my Facebook feed on my cellphone and saw the KEYE post. They had 5 trivia questions about Iron Man for passes and a bonus question to win an Iron Man Nerf rifle. So, using my phone, I quickly answered all 6 questions and was first to win the passes and the only one to win the Nerf gun!

Oddly enough, this should have been the hardest to get in to and I barrelled over there trying to get there in time. I was running late, so I knew it was probably a lost cause at this point, but for some reason there were only about 30 or so people already there. Listening in while we waited, I caught from the people in charge that some sort of mistake was made and a whole bunch of passes never got given away. So we got choice seats and the theater wasn't packed like a sardine can.

May 6
DATE NIGHT
Austin got a brand-new upscale theater called Gold Class Cinemas. I joined up and got a free ticket to this dinner, drinks, and a movie place. As opposed to the Alamo Drafthouse, which I consider it a way to make a movie-outing into a party, this fancy place is a way to make a movie-outing into a real date. So, it seemed a perfect opportunity to claim this free ticket to go on a date and see DATE NIGHT with Steve Carrell and Tiny Fey. Very funny and what a venue to see it.



May 9
LETTERS TO JULIET
This was a special free "Mother's Day" showing of the chick-flick LETTERS TO JULIET. I scored 4 passes to it, so I took my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law to see it. It was a fun experience and, hey, the movie's actually pretty good.





June 1
TRUE BLOOD ULTIMATE FAN EXPERIENCE
This was a sucker gig for me. I signed up on Facebook to be one of the lucky few to get to re-watch the TRUE BLOOD second-season ender, but this time on the big screen. Following the screening of the episode, there was a live Q/A with the creator of the show and the cast. I also got a TRUE BLOOD shwag-bag filled with a copy of one of the novels, some postcards, a shoulder-bag, and a bottle of "True Blood." Plus, they snapped a shot of me going into the screening and posted it on their fan page, but I can't find it anymore. But was able to track down my cellphone snap of the shwag.

July 29
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
One of the funniest movies of year, I started giggling during the opening credits and laughed throughout.









September 13
THE TOWN
This movie was the surprise of the year for me. It was a gripping thriller with great acting and superb directing. In fact, I was so taken by the director I waited for the end credits to see who it was and I was speechless when it said it was directed by...Ben Affleck. Hang up the acting shoes, Ben. You're a damn good director.



September 18
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE
This one was in 3D and was one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Beyond the eye-popping visuals, it turned out to be a kids' movie that I would recommend to kids of all ages. It never compromises the story or danger or even death to cater to adults' misperceptions of what is "appropriate" for kids. This was an instant classic as far as I am concerned.

October 5
NEVER LET ME GO
Almost didn't make it in to this one. It got to the point where they were filling seats for members of the press that had not shown up and we made the cut. So, we actually got perfect seats. This movie was the second biggest surprise of the year for me. It was marketed vaguely as a love story and I went in to the screening with absolutely no idea what the film was supposed to be about. What I got was an intense movie with much to say about what it means to be human and what it means to be in love. It is depressing, but not in that "cancer movie" kind of way. It is a movie about the fact that being human means that true happiness is often grasping at wafting vapors and that death is always the goal line. But, it was very thought-provoking, beautiful, and intellectually stimulating even as it triggers that sense of unease inside.

October 14
JACK-ASS 3D
This was the first screener I actually attempted to get into that I couldn't get into. I guess it was always a lost cause when I realize it was (1) at the Alamo Drafthouse, (2) in a university town, (3) it's a JACK-ASS movie! So, we paid to see SECRETARIAT instead.




October 30
MEGAMIND
We saw this one in 3D and it was side-splitting funny. I will own this one on DVD for sure.


November 8
MORNING GLORY
This movie was very good. Harrison Ford is making some interesting choices lately, and I'm liking them. It's lightweight, charming, and funny. Kind of felt like a throwback to another time in terms of the completely irony and sarcasm free storytelling.





November 12-14
AUSTIN COMICON (Wizard World)
I wrote a lengthy column covering my experiences at AUSTIN COMICON for AICN (and a lengthier version here on my blog). But, I did get my 3-day ticket free as the press representative for AICN.

December 9
BLACK SWAN
This was a maxed-out showing of easily one of the best films of the year. I will be shocked if this movie is not nominated for Best Picture.









December 11
YOGI BEAR
Just as goofy as you would expect. Nothing more or less than what I expected out of a YOGI BEAR movie. However, there's no way I would've paid to see this in 3D, so getting to go to a free showing on a Saturday morning in 3D was just plain nice. There were representatives there from the Texas Park Rangers. That was cute. Also, a couple of people from the Jellystone Park campgrounds up around New Braunfels were there handing out brochures. The movie folks were passing out Yogi Bear suckers and wrapping paper.

December 14
TRUE GRIT
Last free movie of the year and also one of the best films of the year. The theater for this screening was way on the south end of Austin, so we were really pushing to get there in time and it was close. Once again, we made the cut as they were filling the seats of members of the press who did not show up. As a result, we got perfect seats. If TRUE GRIT doesn't get a Best Picture nod this year, that will be a travesty.

Now, onward and upward to 2011. My resolution this year is to see a bunch of free movies again but THIS year I want to try and review them that night! We will see if I can meet that resolution starting this week with THE GREEN HORNET advance screening!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Review of Palmiotti, Gray, and Gulacy's TIME BOMB #3

Entertainment

http://www.mycomicnetwork.com/v2/gallery/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Time_Bomb3.jpg

TIME BOMB #3
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Paul Gulacy
Publisher:
Radical Comics

“That's a pretty big missile...you boys trying to compensate for something?”
-- Jack McCrea

Any comics fan who hasn't been picking up this series has missed out on one of the best mini-series of the year! Thankfully, the trade version is just around the corner. However, I recommend picking it up in the individual comics so you don't have to wait. There is such a sense of satisfaction in the conclusion that I must give this comic my highest recommendation.

This series is a rollicking ride through a great sci-fi action thriller movie...but rather than film, it is on paper visualized through the cinematic eye of the great Paul Gulacy. Gulacy is a master at dramatic viewpoint and dramatic lighting. His visual pacing perfectly punctuates and hammers home Palmiotti and Gray's pounding story and “grindhouse” dialogue.

Picking up with last issue's cliffhanger, our time-traveling special forces commander Jack McCrea is imprisoned in a Nazi prison while his team struggles to complete the mission and free their commander before they get yanked back into the 21st century. What is their mission? To destroy the secret Nazi “Omega Bomb” before it can be triggered to explode in the 21st century and destroy the entire human race.

This particular issue resolves a number of plot issues: the final fate of the team. The final fate of the human race. The final fate of the characters. The final fate of Hitler himself. It all comes to an action-packed and rousing resolution in this issue. Palmiotti and Gray give each character opportunities to shine and develop their characters and exist as more than your standard cardboard cut-out action hero. Throw into the mix Gulacy's character designs, sexy scantily-clad women, and even an opportunity for a few flashes of nudity, and I can't find a flaw in this comic. It builds in excitement perfectly and delivers an ending that every reader will cheer about.

TIME BOMB demonstrates exactly what a Radical mini-series should be and I hope to see this exact team of creators working together again on more original works or more missions for these characters.

Prof. Challenger was beloved by many, despised by a few, but always lived his life to the fullest. Never did he miss an opportunity to pet a puppy, kiss a pretty girl, or ignore a hobo. He is survived by a long-suffering spouse, 2 confused children, a ridiculously silly dog, and a pompous fat old cat. The things that brought him happiness in this life were his comics, his books, his movies, and string cheese. Had he passed from this plane of existence, he would expect the loss to the world to be severe. As it is, however, he has not passed and has no plans to pass for quite awhile. So visit his website at profchallenger.com and read his ramblings and rantings and offer to pay him for his drawrings. He will show his appreciation with a winning smile and breath that smells like the beauty of angels.

Interview with BUCK ROGERS writer, Matt Brady

Entertainment
 

In my role as "Prof. Challenger" for Aintitcool, here is my interview with former reporter for the good chaps over at Newsarama and current writer of the BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL for Dynamite Entertainment. I had a chance to talk with Matt about his jump from comics reporting to comics writing and his new BUCK ROGERS book. Some exclusive first looks at the Annual are interspersed throughout the interview.  If you would rather read this on AICN, just hit the Q&A graphic at the top of this blog and it'll take you there.

PROF. CHALLENGER (PROF): First off, my hat's off to you for the comic writing gig. Since I don't make a habit out of reading the "distinguished competition" in the comic reviewing world, I guess I didn't realize that you had moved on from Newsarama a year or so ago. Was that part of a plan to parlay your experience in the world of Comics reporting and such into a career actually writing comics or is this more of a side project for the love of it?

MATT BRADY (MATT): Writing, and writing comics, has always been in the picture, somewhere, but that thing called Newsarama tended to eat up any time that I could’ve done it in, let alone, I didn’t want to enter the very gray ethical area of writing comics while covering them for Newsarama. So, after having comics reporting as my day job for just over ten years, I left Newsarama last year. Since then, I’ve been teaching science, and working on some writing projects with Troy. We started on a few cool ideas, and were working on pushing them forward, and Buck really just fell into our laps when Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci asked if we’d be interested. We were, and well, here we are.

PROF: Dynamite has made themselves something of a reputation out there for aggressively pursuing these older properties and licenses and now they're about to be publishing both FLASH GORDON and BUCK ROGERS concurrently. Of all the properties at Dynamite, what drew you to BUCK ROGERS? Did you work up a proposal and approach them or did they offer it to you and your co-writer Troy Brownfield (a Newsarama columnist)?

MATT: Like I mentioned, Nick asked us if we’d be interested at the time when we were talking about another project with him. And yeah, you can’t deny that Dynamite has great licenses, and along with LONE RANGER, ZORRO, and of course, GREEN HORNET, they’ve polished up BUCK ROGERS to make him sexy again for new readers, while sticking true to what made him cool in the first place.

PROF: What was your exposure to the character before this project? Were you familiar with the TV series, books, the old movie serials, the comic strips?

MATT: My first exposure to Buck came from seeing the TV series pilot in theaters – why don’t they do that anymore? Anyway, my brother and I faithfully watched all the episodes of that first season, and then, followed the adventures of Buck n’ Hawk into the second, before some producer at NBC mercifully put a gun to the series’ head. It was actually through the series that I learned about the movie serial, when that episode with Buster Crabbe came on.

But for this Annual, Troy and I did a ton of research – movies, television, comic strips, original novels, and of course, what Scott Beatty has already set up in the series. So I’ve got my bases covered, and can wonder aloud at Buck’s multiple origins and his relationship with Wilma with fans of every Buck era – not to mention the pretty blatant racism of the original novels.

PROF: What about Dynamite's approach to the reintroduction of the characters of Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering makes it work for modern audiences, and why do you think it has taken so long for Buck to finally take on the comic book world?

MATT: I think what ideally helps Buck find an audience, and what sets him and his adventures apart from just about every other space yarn out there, is that, from the very start, Buck was always about optimism – for the future, for humans, for the world. Sure, Kane, Ardala, a beaten-up Earth, crime – all of that was nuts, but Buck had an “I can fix this” attitude about him – in fact, that’s what he said in his last line of #12. He’s not a cheerleader, and he’s not a sap, but throughout his incarnations, he’s of this streak of optimism and hope that he – and the people he’s with – can work together to fix things. And he often charges in without thinking, letting his best intentions lead him. Dare I say it – if they’re looking to cast a new Buck Rogers movie…well, Nathan Fillion would be perfect.

It takes stones to tell stories like that in today’s market, especially when no hero stays on that road for very long, if they ever travel it. I mean, hell, Superman has been a whiny bitch for the last few years, Spider-Man…er…Captain America…anyway, I think that there are readers out there that dig that kind of thing.

Oh, and there’s all this high adventure science fiction-y stuff, and people in spacesuits. People dig seeing people in space suits. With laser guns.

PROF: Is your story going to be a stand-alone piece or part of a larger storyline within the BUCK ROGERS comic series?

MATT: All stand-alone, baby. Scott has, and I mean this, go back and look at the issues, created a pretty seamless twelve issues that started with issue #1, and kept Buck on this roller coaster, non stop. Seriously – go – look. I’ll wait. In fact, when we got the green light from Dynamite, when Troy was doing a polish on the script, I tried to nail down exactly when the story happened, and I believe my first comment was “Shiiiiiiiiiit.”

I think we found a little wiggle room. Either that, or it’s the magic of comics, man. The magic of comics.

PROF: How did you approach the characters? Did you stick with the past year or so in terms of the comics for reference or did you try to bring a bit more of a nostalgic bent to it?

MATT: Since we were playing in the sandbox that Scott had established, we stuck pretty closely to what he had set up in terms of characters. We used his Buck/Wilma dynamic, which echoes a lot of the television series - they’re more colleagues than romantically interested in each other. Huer is the Huer from the series. Oh, and we get to introduce some new and old enemies – we give a nod to the original novels with one, and hopefully create something that will be coming back with the other.

PROF: If you're like me, the best memory of the old TV series is admiring Erin Gray's feisty and sexy as hell portrayal of Wilma Deering. When writing, do you write her with that in mind or, again, are you sticking with the last year's worth of continuity?

MATT: Ah, another one of us whose voyage through puberty was helped along by that episode with the damn space elves that used their mind powers to start to unzip Wilma’s suit? By the way, Erin Gray is a wonderful person – if you haven’t you should try to meet up with her on the convention circuit.

Anyway – we took what Scott started with Wilma, and were able to go into some different directions, given our story. As for how she turns out in those scenes, I just love it, and I have to give the credit to Troy. He nailed her dialogue and infused it with personality that showed a different side than what we’ve seen so far.

PROF: How about the visual approach? Are you and Troy working full-script with regular BUCK ROGERS artist Carlos Rafael or more plot-style?

MATT: All full script. And working with Carlos makes me both happy and sad. Happy, because he’s a tremendous artist who can handle anything you throw at him without so much as a “What the fu--?”; but sad because he’s one of those artists who is clearly on his way up, which means he’ll be moving on to bigger and better, instead of marrying me and Troy (creatively, pervs) and turning this duo into a killer trio.

PROF: How thrilling is it to see your script bought to life visually?

MATT: It’s amazing. With the Newsarama gig, I’d heard about it so many times that I was totally jaded to it. But when Nick sent over a few pages from Carlos…like I said, I teach now, and after school, I ran around showing anyone I could find.

And then going back and explaining what it was from, and yes I did write it, and yes, that’s great that your dad knew who Buck Rogers was, and wow, I didn’t know that you used to collect comic books, and yes, really, this is one that my pal and I wrote.

It was more good than bad. So much more good.

PROF: To me, Buck Rogers reimagined for the modern audience has such potential for exploration of new worlds and fantastic imaginary vistas with the wonder of a man of today transplanted to the world of tomorrow. Do you find it easy to put yourself mentally into the mind of a character like that to get reactions and motivations that readers can identify with?

MATT: Ding-ding-ding-ding! We have a winner. That was EXACTLY the approach we used on this story. Again, not to downplay what Scott has done with the character, Troy and I put ourselves in the mindset of “What if we were Buck Rogers?” and the story basically jumped at us.

PROF: If someone has been on the fence, so far, about picking up the new BUCK ROGERS series, what would you say to encourage them to pick up the BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL?

MATT: The space suits and lasers wasn’t enough? Well, best we can tell you is that it’s a pretty cool, emotional story that really adds some depth to Buck, and does put a human side to a lot of the whiz-bang of science fiction. Hey, wouldn’t jumping 500 years into the future be great? Well, yeah…but….

Plus, if things go well, this is where it all starts for Buck.

PROF: What has been the most satisfying aspect of your collaboration with Troy and Carlos?

MATT: Just doing it man, just finally doing it.
PROF: Now that your writing gremlin has been fed, what's next on the horizon for Matt Brady, writer of comics?

MATT: About a jillion more. We’ve got pitches and proposals in with a number of different publishers, and are in talks about minis, ongoings and short stories. Right now, we’re really digging the less-mainstream characters because, well, after covering it for years and years, I think Troy and I feel that the world doesn’t necessarily need just another Superman story, or just another X-Men story – which is not saying we can’t come up with ones, it’s just not where we are right now. Plus, with characters like those at Dynamite, for instance, you’ve got such room to move, whereas, with the larger characters, you can find yourself up against inflexible corporate canon, or butting into the ideas for that character’s next movie, animated series, toy line, 2014 event storyline or what have you.

And of course, we’ve got creator-owned goods in the works as well. Looking for an artist for one, actually, so if you’ve got the more realistic style art chops, we’re looking to talk. I’m at matt.brady@gmail.com. And of course, we’ve got a million other projects here and there. It’s a good time.

PROF: Look for Matt Brady and Troy Brownfeld’s BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL from Dynamite Entertainment in February!